USF Student Government senate is holding an interim election Oct. 13 to fill 16 vacant positions, which will be overseen by senate President Jennifer Belmont instead of the Election Rules Commission (ERC).
On Sept. 22, former student body presidential candidate Christopher Leddy called for the impeachment of SG Attorney General Cordell Chavis, who said Belmont’s oversight is OK because it is an interim election. However, no election should be overseen by just one person.
SG senator Ricky Shockley questioned the legality of the election at a recent senate meeting.
“I think it is overstepping the boundaries of the senate president. I thought the ERC had to run the election,” Shockley said.
The ERC, which works to ensure validity of elections, has eight positions, and even if SG representatives feel that one person can handle the ERC’s responsibilities, the governing SG statutes require that the ERC be used in all elections.
Statute 700.34 defines special elections as “Any election which is held as necessary throughout the academic year following the general election. These elections shall include expedited elections, interim elections, and elections to present recalls, referenda, and constitutional amendments.”
Chavis seemed unaware that an interim election is a special election after Belmont asked for his legal opinion.
“That refers to a general and special election, not an interim election and since there is nothing forbidding this … it does fall on the shoulders of the chair to call this,” Chavis said.
Statute 700.14 says the ERC is “an official entity of Student Government created to oversee the execution and logistics of all Student Government elections.”
Special elections should fall under the category of all elections, so they should be under the ERC’s decision. There needs to be a clear answer from Chavis on whether Belmont can oversee the election.
There are two possible explanations behind Chavis’ comments: Perhaps he was just unfamiliar with the SG statutes that he’s required to interpret, or he was intentionally misleading the senate.
Whichever the reason, his advice could have justified an illegal election. However, Chavis said that the senate president and pro tempore have overseen interim elections in the past.
“It is my right to interpret the statutes,” Chavis said. “If (Leddy) disagrees with the interpretation, he can take it to the court and motion for it to be struck down from the statutes. But if he disagrees with that, I don’t think that’s grounds for impeachment.”
Instead of even mentioning that he may have been misleading, Chavis boldly defended his previous claims. This is not the type of person who should represent the student body’s interests.
Belmont supported Chavis. “It is my personal opinion … that we did not break any rules since they are not outlined,” she said.
The statutes are clear and the senate needs to listen to Leddy’s accusations. Chavis and Belmont need to do the right thing and ensure that this election is carried out in a way that does not violate the rules of SG.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.